Hungry Ghost Festival takes place on the seventh month of the lunar calendar. It is believed to be when the Gates of Hell open, and spirits are allowed to wander freely in our realm, absorb the life essence from food, and look for entertainment.
For most Buddhist and Taoist devotees, this is a time to burn offerings and perform various rituals to ensure that these spirits do not interfere with humans. It is not unusual to see people burning incense and paper money to appease lost souls along the streets.
Some people believe that there are certain taboos one must take heed of throughout the Hungry Ghost Festival to avoid unwanted “attention” from spirits. Here are 12 of them!
The most common thing people believe is that one should avoid staying out after evening, as meddling spirits are stronger at night and might follow you home.
No night photography or selfies! Apparently your camera might capture the image of a spirit, which can cause misfortune.
No making jokes, laughing, knocking down or stepping on the spiritual offerings. Otherwise you might incur the wrath of ghosts that could try to get you. Anyone who happens to do these by mistake are advised to apologize to the spirits.
Getais are live stage performances held during Hungry Ghost Festival. Expect loud music, Chinese opera, and karaoke, among others. If you notice empty seats in the first row, don’t be tempted to sit there, as these are reserved for entertainment-seeking ghosts.
Many devotees believe that when people die, their spirits take the form of moths. It is said that if you see a moth in your home during this time, it is a sign that your loved one is back to visit you.
Play with fire and you’ll get burnt, basically.
Swimming pools, waterfalls and oceans are generally avoided by devotees during Hungry Ghost Festival. They believe that evil spirits might pull you into the water to drown you. This supposedly supplies a replacement soul and helps them reincarnate.
Spirits are said to be able to hide in closed umbrellas, especially red ones. If you open an umbrella in your home, you risk bringing in an unwanted guest.
Whistling or singing might attract spirits who are out to look for entertainment, so these activities are generally avoided.
Sticking your chopsticks upright into a bowl of rice is a huge taboo! It looks like a pair of joss sticks at an altar, which is often used for spiritual offerings. Place your chopsticks on the side of the bowl instead.
This prevents bad things from ruining your happy events.
If you feel someone tapping your shoulder while you are walking down the street, don’t turn your head back. They believe that the “protective flame” on your shoulder will be put out, thus leaving you vulnerable to the spirit. If you must, turn your whole body.
What other taboos have you heard of?
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